01/13/2007 1:00AM

Hard Spun takes it up a notch

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NEW ORLEANS - Undefeated Hard Spun took a giant step on the Triple Crown trail Saturday with an impressive 6 1/2-length score in the Grade 3, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, the first race in this track's series for 3-year-old colts leading up to the March 10 Louisiana Derby.

Jockey Mario Pino was a happy passenger aboard the Danzig colt, who went right to the lead and galloped along without ever being seriously challenged to score his fourth victory in four starts. The Lecomte was his first attempt around two turns.

"He was just awesome, he made the lead so easily," said Pino, who rolled through a quarter mile in 23.76 seconds and a half in 46.78 with Teuflesberg trying unsuccessfully to run at him a couple of times down the backstretch.

"Every time that horse on the outside came to him he just took off," said Pino. "I never had to ask him."

Hard Spun took the first turn professionally with Izzie's Halo challenging Teuflesberg behind him. After running the six furlongs in 1:11.10, Hard Spun pulled away through the stretch with Pino hitting him a couple of times to keep him focused.

"He was flicking his ears around, looking around," said Pino. "I wanted to keep after him a little because he looks around a lot."

Hard Spun completed the mile - which ends at the sixteenth pole finish line - in 1:37.87 and galloped out an extra sixteenth of a mile to the normal finish line, per instructions from trainer Larry Jones.

"You don't want him to pull up at the sixteenth pole because you want him to know what his job is," said Jones.

Izzie's Halo finished second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Teuflesberg. It was another five lengths back from Teuflesberg to Makeithappencaptain. Beta Capo, Tony Terrific, and Citi Smoke completed the order of finish.

Hard Spun, a Pennsylvania-bred owned by Robert L. Beck, paid $4 to win. Prior to the Lecomte, Hard Spun had won a maiden race and a minor stakes at Delaware Park, and the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes for statebreds at Philadelphia Park. His winning margins have ranged from five lengths to 8 3/4 lengths.

The all-stakes pick four, which concluded with the Lecomte, paid $754.80 for $2, with the winning numbers 2-3-5-3. The other winners were Venomous ($21.20), Smitty's Sunshine ($4.60), and Get Ready Bertie ($5.80).